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Justice in education

The social-justice movement in education goes back to the early 2000s (“Why are schools brainwashing our children?” National, Nov. 5). Teaching kids empathy, tolerance, responsibility, optimism and six other “key traits” was mandated all across Ontario, and similar programs were rolled out in many other provinces. Teachers were suddenly expected to not only teach the curriculum, but also teach their students manners. If parents want teachers to raise their kids for them, that’s fine, but they can’t complain when they don’t like the political bent that comes along with it.

Kristina Thomas, Bowmanville, Ont.

I am concerned with the unabashed use of the words “brainwashing” and “hijacking” on the cover of the Nov. 5 issue. Why the fear-mongering around social justice in education? No one complained when teachers took the lead in their classrooms to fight racism, sexism or the stigma attached to mental health. Teachers face a large diversity of issues and challenges at the classroom level that require them to examine and address real-life issues. Would we stifle those conversations? Raise your hands if you believe education should be nurturing generations of empathetic and caring policymakers if we are to sustain equity and peace in an increasingly turbulent world. That’s not brainwashing, that’s good public education.

Paul Taillefer, President, Canadian Teachers’ Federation, Ottawa

Teachers should teach youngsters how to make their own way through a tough life ahead and not be encouraged to rely on others (government largesse, unions, etc.). They should be introduced to money management at an early age and not taught to walk a picket line. As for pipelines, pupils and teachers alike should be shown a detailed map of existing pipelines that blanket North America before anyone is encouraged to dismiss them out of hand.

Gordon Parke, Vancouver

Our children are not unaware of what is going on around them. Either the skills and information presented in the curriculum have meaning in the lives of our students or we return to an antiseptic curriculum that disengages the very people it is supposed to benefit. You can brand it as social justice or political correctness if you want, but education must have contextual relevance to the students, their parents and the society at large. Otherwise institutional learning loses effectiveness and the respect of us all.

Paul Mundy, Kitchener, Ont.

The goal of social-justice education is to teach children that there are people in the world different from themselves, who lead a variety of different lifestyles and deal with unique life challenges. The world is arguably a better place when these differences are seen for what they are: commonplace realities and not something to be feared. In a world where children are taught to be shallow, judgmental and superficially focused on the acquisition of material possessions, we should be thankful that there is a group of people encouraging them to care about something more important than getting the next iPhone.

Timothy Boudreau, Brampton, Ont.

A good teacher encourages students to develop their own set of values over a number of years, and not to simply accept those of the teacher. It is one thing to make young people aware of potentially dangerous situations, but to actually organize the kids to gather and protest is forcing the teacher’s biases on the youngsters and is inappropriate. When do we give this responsibility back to the parents?

Carlton Waddling, Alliston, Ont.

Thanks for a great article. When I was in Grade 10 in 1988, our NDP-supporting geography teacher taught our class that the world’s supply of oil was going to run out within the next five years. When a student asked why auto manufacturers were still producing cars that ran on oil, he said the capitalist pigs weren’t smart enough to have figured this out. I for one would like our schools to get out of the politics and social-engineering business and focus on teaching the basics of the core subjects as best they can. Full stop.

I.C. Giles, Toronto

Research shows that student engagement is one of the greatest influences on student achievement. Students who are empowered to take ownership of their learning, by making authentic and meaningful connections to the world around them, not only increase their academic achievement but also become greater problem-solvers and empathetic members of an equitable and inclusive society. Your article has underestimated our students, insulted our educators, and instilled fear in parents. Perhaps instead of having social justice integrated into their education, you would prefer our young leaders of the future to sit quietly in rows, memorize their textbooks, and not ask any questions. Social justice is not a “trend,” it is an obligation.

Penny Delaney, Port Perry, Ont.

Your article inaccurately stated that my partner, David Stocker, and I “made international headlines last year after announcing they intended to raise their third child, Storm, genderless.” Neither I nor David ever used the word “genderless.” The term was coined by the media itself. David and I chose to keep our baby’s physiological characteristics private. Being aware that gender identity takes time to emerge and be expressed by children, we have also declined to share what we do not know. I wish the media had a similar commitment to accuracy in reporting.

Kathy Witterick, Toronto

Children as political props

It seems somewhat timely, with the debate surrounding Omar Khadr’s age when he was arrested, that you would publish a picture on your “Good News, Bad News” page (Nov. 5) showing a young boy supposedly protesting the killing of Lebanon’s security chief Wissam al-Hassan. Was the 15-year-old Khadr a child warrior or an innocent being led around by adults? The young boy in this picture likely has no idea who Wissam al-Hassan was and even less knowledge of what his position entailed and how it might personally affect him. Any faction will use whatever means are available to garner support for their cause.

Murray Mills, Pugwash, N.S.

Colonial crimes

Trying to put the U.K. on trial for alleged anti-Mau Mau atrocities that may have happened over 50 years ago only proves that trawling lawyers never met a scam they didn’t like (“Empire on trial,” International, Oct. 29). Far more worthy of litigation are the three years of deliberate and well-documented RAF firebombing of German civilian cities; the U.S. firebombing of wooden Tokyo, plus Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the U.K. using hellhole concentration camps to wipe out Boer civilians; the Japanese murdering prisoners and civilians; Mao Zedong and his “revolutions”; Vietnam and the Hanoi Hilton; Cuban revolutionaries using murder as policy; Robert Mugabe and the persecution of farmers, etc.; and the entire Muslim hierarchy that permits its practitioners to use Islam as an excuse for the most horrible atrocities. Of all these, the only ones having a ghost of a chance are those select few brought against normally well-behaved Western democracies, proving that justice is not only blind but biased.

Donald McKay, Calgary

Provincial border battleground

I appreciate the article outlining the difficulty B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford have in negotiating the needs of their constituents and the needs of their governments (“Battle lines,” National, Nov. 5), but your writer focused mostly on B.C.’s perceived objections to tankers off the coast. Most of us living in B.C.’s Interior are far more concerned with the proposed pipeline’s potential to compromise our fresh water supply. The proposed Enbridge pipeline would cross the Stuart River, which is a tributary to the Nechako River, which flows through Prince George into the Fraser River. When a spill occurs, it will have a serious impact on any environment. The drinking water reservoir of B.C.’s Interior is a shallow one, and a spill near the Stuart River will compromise the drinking water for a city of over 80,000 residents. Please don’t simplify the objections of B.C. citizens—it’s about the ocean but it’s also about our day-to-day lives.

Gillian Wigmore, Prince George, B.C.

Not so game

The idea that Jacob Richler seems in favour of allowing restaurants to serve up wild game for enthusiastic gourmands, while acknowledging that current law in most Canadian jurisdictions prevents the exploitation of species, seems irreconcilable (“Wild about game,” Taste, Nov. 5). Hunting in this country was originally based on sustenance. The sport of hunting carries on this original tradition. Hunters kill, dress and prepare their food. Some may have professional butchers prepare larger game for the freezer and to maximize the yield of the animal. You have to be a regulated hunter to participate in this harvest. When demand for wild game escalates as a result of gastro-hype spawned by high-end restaurants, serious issues like poaching, over-harvesting and hunter safety may become reality. To advocate for commercial restaurants having access to wild game is short-sighted, self-serving, and in the long term catastrophic to wildlife populations.

Mark Honderich, North Bay, Ont.

Keep your hands off Canada’s wildlife! Chef Marc Thuet and his friend Jacob Richler cook for a few who can afford meals à la Marie Antoinette. To change the law to allow wild meat to enter the market is opening a loophole to poach. There are plenty of organic meat sources, and we do not need to become stone-age hunters to tickle our sense of taste. Raise your Alsatian snails and be done with it.

Peter Errmann, Calgary

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